As Rob laid out in his Art of the Draft post, one of the best ways to effectively build an NBA franchise is to find deals with draft values. Finding good players later in the draft is the best way to have top talent for a cheap price. While this is the optimal way to go, it is by far the hardest thing to do in sports. If every GM was able to this, all the NBA teams would be strong and there would be nothing for a “blogboy” like me to write about. Here are the top ten best draft value picks from 2013-2017.
5. Donovan Mitchell: 13th pick in 2017
To begin this countdown, we start with a guy who comes from the most recent draft in Donovan Mitchell. It is hard to tell how much of a value he will truly be since he has played less than one season, but his 2018 numbers are outstanding. He is averaging a 20.4/3.6/3.6/1.4 statline while being the go-to guy on a playoff-bound Utah Jazz team. He is especially valuable when you consider the expectations he and this team had going into this season. The Jazz were projected to be a lottery team that was closer to a rebuilder than a contender with Mitchell not expected to be this dominant this quickly. Nevertheless, Utah and Mitchell have come together and this looks like a team that could make noise in this postseason and beyond. Being able to find a star like Mitchell at 13th overall was a steal for Utah and he presents as a large draft value for that franchise.
4. Devin Booker: 13th pick in 2015
The next player on this list was also a 13th overall selection in his respective draft who has emerged as a star. Devin Booker was a smaller name prospect that came out of the loud and proud University of Kentucky where he played well but never really stood out as an NBA prospect. In a draft that saw six Wildcats selected, Booker has emerged as arguably the best one (outside of Karl Anthony-Towns). In 2015 the Phoenix Suns were in the midst of rebuilding and were looking for a player that they could stand out and be someone to build around for years to come. They found this man in Booker. Ever since his rookie season, Booker has become the key player that their offense is run through (a career usage percentage of 27.7%) and looks like a star in the making. This is especially so when you consider he was taken outside the top ten in his draft. While the Suns are have an overbearing lack of direction as a franchise and don’t look like a team that is close to ending their rebuild, they have a bright player in Booker and he is someone who will continue to shine and will be even better when the team is good again.
3. Rudy Gobert: 27th pick in 2013
When Rudy Gobert declared for the draft in the summer of 2013, most NBA scouts knew little of the imposing player to become known as the “Stifle Tower”. Gobert played for a French League team called the Cholet Basket from 2010-2013 where his numbers where not all that impressive but his tape was. Gobert came to America for the scouting combine and broke records for his measurables, having the biggest recorded wingspan in history (until Walter Tavares came in 2014). This did not help Gobert move into the lottery like he had hoped and he was selected by the Denver Nuggets at 27th overall. Now, you may be wondering, “wait, he doesn’t play for Denver, why is he on the Jazz?” Don’t worry I have the answer. Utah acquired Gobert on draft day for a second round pick (who became Erick Green) and cash considerations. At the time this seemed like a half decent deal for the Nuggets, as they got to move back in the draft while and some cap relief for a player they did not really plan to use. To the delight of Utah and Jazz fans, Gobert came to their team and has since established himself as the best defensive center in the entire league. While Gobert has his problems, like his health for example, he is still a great player in this league and, along with Mitchell, is the cornerstone of this franchise. His fall on draft day makes him a great value but his value becomes even greater when you consider Denver practically gave him away.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 15th pick in 2013
The next player on this list is certainly the one with the most name recognition. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a star in the NBA but he was not necessarily projected to be one back in 2013. Like Gobert before him, Antetokounmpo was a foreign prospect that not many scouts and front office members knew about going into that draft. His time in the Greek League wasn’t very translatable in terms of NBA comparison, but his size and speed wowed teams as Antetokounmpo looked like a model player for position-less basketball. While many teams liked what they saw, most were unable to pull the trigger in the beginning of the 2013 draft and he feel to the Milwaukee Bucks at 15th overall. Antetokounmpo’s impact on the Bucks and the league needs little elaboration. He is a full fledged NBA star and honestly looks like the player to take the active GOAT thrown from LeBron James when he begins to descend. Despite not being considered the franchise player when he was drafted, he certainly is now. Antetokounmpo has become one of the most coveted players in the league, making him a great value for Milwaukee.
1. Nikola Jokic: 41st pick in 2014
And number one on this draft value list is a player who was selected far from first overall. Nikola Jokic spent four seasons playing in various leagues in his home country of Serbia and began to stand out as an NBA prospect. In fact, when he came out for the 2014 draft, he was the Adriatic League MVP and was named the top prospect in the entire league. While impressive, this did little to move the needle among NBA scouts and Jokic fell out of the first round entirely. He ended up being selected almost half way through the second round at 41st overall. Jokic came into the NBA as an older European prospect with little to no expectations. Since then Jokic has emerged as one of the best centers in the NBA, especially when you consider his offensive skillset and versatility. While he is a bit of a joke on the defensive end, he is someone the Nuggets can build around for the future as a franchise level player. Jokic’s ascendance to NBA stardom despite being viewed as a throwaway prospect makes him an incredible value for Denver, and has cemented himself as the top player on this value list.
Spencer Dinwiddie: 38th pick in 2014
Spencer Dinwiddie was a star at the University of Colorado, but tore his ACL in the season leading up to the 2014 draft. Dinwiddie declared for the draft anyway and hoped his pre-injury talent would resonate with the scouts. Though he fell out of the first round, he found himself selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 8th pick in the second round. Dinwiddie was never able to crack the SVG bench system and found himself bouncing between the G-League and the NBA. His time with the Pistons and Bulls, who he was traded to in 2016, both looked bleak and had Dinwiddie on the edge of NBA obscurity. However, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016 and has been a revelation for their team. In two seasons, Dinwiddie has averaged 10.3/5.0/ 3.0/0.5 and looks like a guard they can rely on for years to come. While he was not drafted by the Nets, his value as a second round player is great for Brooklyn; placing his name on this list as a top draft value.
Kyle Kuzma: 27th pick in 2017
Kuzma, a prospect from the University of Utah, was not very high on the consensus NBA draft radar and was a player that most analysts and experts had forgotten about. He ended up falling down the draft board and eventually was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers at 27th overall. Though he was shadowed by the overwhelming aura of Lonzo Ball and the Ball family being selected by the Lakers, Kuzma made a name for himself, shining in the Summer League and into the beginning part of the regular season. While he has cooled off in recent weeks and hasn’t played to quite the same level, Kuzma still presents as a fantastic value for the Lakers going forward.
Gary Harris: 19th pick in 2014
For former Michigan State guard Gary Harris, his name on this list comes as a late first round selection who is playing like lottery pick. Harris was projected to be a solid contributor in the NBA but not many expected him to be a core franchise player, like he is for the Nuggets. Ever since his sophomore season with Denver back in 2015, Harris has been a constant starter and scoring option for this team and looks like a player that they will use going forward along side Jokic and Jamaal Murray. Harris’ value is especially great when you consider he was traded to Denver on the 2014 draft day for Doug McDermott, a trade that I think every team in the league would do. The Nuggets got a good deal for Harris, and he is certainly a draft value that deserves recognition.
What do you think of these selections? Any names you agree or disagree with? Any names you don’t see on this list that you think is worthy? Mention it on our Twitter page @basketbloggrs